PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is a fertility issue that plagues millions of women around the world. It is characterized by high cholesterol, type-2 diabetes, obesity, acne, elevated levels of androgen hormones, and lack of or irregular menstruation. PCOS can be diagnosed as early as the teen years of a female, although women between the ages 20 to 30 are usually diagnosed with this condition.
PCOS develops when the ovarian cycle is disrupted, and instead of the ovary releasing an egg, the follicle remains until more and more follicles accumulate. No egg is released during PCOS and this is what causes infertility. There may be no proof that PCOS is inherited but doctors suspect it to be due to the excess insulin in a woman’s body, causing androgens to be created. This eventually disrupts the woman’s cycle of ovulation.
How can acupuncture treat PCOS?
There are a number of ways acupuncture can aid in treating PCOS. Research has revealed that within two to four months, acupuncture can restore balance to a woman’s hormonal cycle. This helps to normalize the menstrual cycle and reduce the androgens in the body. Acne related to PCOS can also be resolved by acupuncture as well as the high cholesterol, diabetes and excess weight, all due to PCOS. Acupuncture does produce beneficial effects all at the same time; it improves blood flow, lymph drainage, nerve conductivity and regulates the sympathetic nervous system and the hormones.
What Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theory can explain PCOS treatment using acupuncture?
Each patient’s TCM diagnosis is unique. The diagnosis is based on the TCM pattern you present during consultation with your acupuncturist. The pattern will be either excess or deficient in nature.
The excess patterns associated with PCOS are often seen as Blood Stasis or Dampness in the body. These factors cause a blockage in the flow of energy in the meridians or energy pathways. The blockage often manifests as pain, but can have other consequences as well such as the body’s incapacity to release an egg during ovulation. Dampness symptoms related to PCOS has symptoms that include diarrhea, headaches, dull stomach pain and a general feeling of heaviness. Symptoms of blood related to PCOS include a purplish tinge in the tongue or lips, menstruation with blood clots, and a stabbing sharp pain in the stomach.
Deficiency patterns related to PCOS include Kidney deficiencies. The person’s essence is kept in the kidney and this essence is what makes us grow, bear children and age. The essence is made up of Yin and a Yang, two opposing energy forces in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Lack of Kidney Yin in PCOS can produce symptoms such as a short ovulation cycle, low back pain, constipation, hot flashes, and night sweats. Deficient Kidney Yang in PCOS on the other hand can result in symptoms like low sex drive, diarrhea, aversion to communicate with others and dislike to cold.
What can you do?
Since PCOS is intimately associated with a woman’s insulin levels, what may be needed is to regulate her exercise and diet regardless if she is diagnosed with diabetes or not. Perform an exercise program that complements your acupuncture therapy: deficiencies necessitate light workouts, whereas if you show a pattern of excess, you may be required to perform more vigorous physical activity. Diet needs to include a minimum of six to seven servings of vegetables and fruits each day, and with no artificial sweeteners, no white flour products and no refined foods such as candy. Eat smaller portions of food four or five small meals a day. Avoid dairy products especially if you suffer from dampness accumulation. You can consume organic meats.
Galina Semyonova is a licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist in New York City. She has studied extensively in the fields of biofeedback therapy, SCENAR therapy, Chinese herbal treatments and Chinese and Western nutrition.